Tuesday, April 24, 2012: Oliver Says ‘Yes’
This is a follow-up story reporting on the reception a five-year-old boy gave to The National Theatre Ballet’s recent performance of Goldilocks. The first story, explaining how his mom prepared the young boy for the event, appeared on Opus Osm on Wed, Apr 18.
As we entered the Theatre of the Estates for the Saturday Goldilocks ballet matinee, I was relieved to see that nearly every adult seemed to have a child, or two, in tow, some younger than my five-year-old son Oliver. The atmosphere in the theatre was light-hearted and lively, set by the opening moments of pre-ballet drama: When the narrator, a fiddle-playing storyteller, tried to “warm up” the orchestra by leading them on his fiddle, the drummer put her drum sticks on her head like a Martian. Meanwhile, the other musicians exchanged melodic gibes with the fiddler. Oliver laughed heartily along with his peers as the musicians settled down and began to play properly.
The ballet unfolds as the narrator and his accomplices, a young woman and a child, meet a troupe of townspeople and, with help from a trunkful of whimsical costumes, lead us through the Goldilocks fairy tale. Oliver caught the story-within-a-story much better than I had in my first viewing, and his attention held fast through the three-act performance.
Although the two intermissions extended the length of the performance to two-and-a-half hours, they helped ensure that children as young as Oliver enjoyed the performance and stayed in their seats. The lively orchestra music and frequent audience interactions created an atmosphere so even the youngest viewers were at ease.
Oliver was most enthralled by the character of Jiří and his dog companion. He also liked the animals that Jiří met on his journey, such as the red ants, baby birds, fish, turtle, gigantic spider, and helpful fly. Oliver wondered out loud if the ants were stinging ones, and he was relieved to discover they were creatures in need, rather than potential threats.Much to Oliver’s delight, the ants interacted with the audience later in the ballet during one humorous scene when they appeared in all corners of the theatre, even the box balconies, bouncing large, white balls. One of the balls bounced off Oliver’s head as audience members helped pass it to the stage where it was miniaturized into the princess’s lost pearls.
The animals’ elaborate costumes and the special effects of super-sizing key dramatic elements, such as the beads, the lost ring, and the animals themselves, lent a fanciful element to the ballet that was fresh and appealing.
While Oliver whole-heartedly approved of the animals, except the naughty swordfish and black spider, he had more trouble trying to decide if the evil king was really an evil king, or if he was just a daddy pretending to be evil.
He also became worried at the end of the story when his hero Jiří temporarily lost his head. Luckily, the fairy tale ending prevailed, and Jiří came back to life after being sprinkled with the living water.
For a child’s very first National Theatre experience, Goldilocks presents an ideal opportunity to expose the youngest generation of theatre-goers to a top-notch Czech ballet. I know Oliver will appreciate seeing the performance again in a year or two, if he’s lucky enough to get the chance.
We left the ballet in high spirits, having both relished an afternoon of “high” culture brought especially to our level. — oo
– Emily Prucha
Photo Credits: Emily Prucha